Community Leadership Awards

Community Leadership Awards

Since 1963, the San Francisco Foundation’s Community Leadership Awards have honored individuals and nonprofit organizations doing extraordinary work to address the Bay Area’s most pressing challenges. The awards are designed to advance community-driven, innovative, and sustainable solutions to critical issues facing the Bay Area.

Nominations

Each year, we ask members of the public to nominate outstanding individuals and nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area for one of four awards. Eligible nominees are then asked to submit an application. Thanks for your patience while we consider some changes to our program. Please check back in late 2019 for details regarding the next Community Leadership Awards.

Eligibility & Guidelines

Individual Awards ($10,000 each)

  • Art Award: This award is given to an artist who has made a significant contribution to the Bay Area and whose work has inspired social action and measurable impact.
  • Leadership Award: This award is given to an individual to recognize outstanding commitment to the community and inspired leadership. In honor of Robert C. Kirkwood.

Organizational Awards ($20,000 each)

  • Impact Award: This award is given to a nonprofit organization that demonstrates exemplary commitment to creating greater equity and opportunity in the Bay Area.
  • Innovation Award: This award is given to a nonprofit organization undertaking a pioneering effort to address racial and economic equity in the Bay Area. In honor of John R. May.

Basic Eligibility

  • Applicants must be based in and serve residents in one or more of our five Bay Area counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo).
  • Individuals may work in any industry (public, private, nonprofit, etc.).
  • Individuals must be nominated by a third party and may not nominate themselves.
  • Organizations must have an IRS 501(c)(3) tax exempt status or be a fiscally sponsored project of another nonprofit entity.
  • Previous award winners are ineligible.
2018 Community Leadership Award Winners

Art Award: Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Impact Award: Nuestra Casa
Innovation Award: Family Independence Initiative
Leadership Award: Del Seymour


Marc Bamuthi Joseph is a 2017 TED Global Fellow, an inaugural recipient of the Guggenheim Social Practice initiative, and an honoree of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship. He is also the winner of the 2011 Herb Alpert Award in Theatre, and an inaugural recipient of the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. In pursuit of affirmations of black life in the public realm, he co-founded the Life is Living Festival for Youth Speaks, and created the installation “Black Joy in the Hour of Chaos” for Creative Time. Joseph’s opera libretto, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” was named one of 2017’s Best Classical Music Performances by The New York Times. His evening length work, “/peh-LO-tah/,” was commissioned by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and was presented at BAM’s Harvey Theater as a part of the 2017 Next Wave Festival. His latest piece, “The Just and the Blind” investigates the crisis of over-sentencing in the prison industrial complex and will premiere at Carnegie Hall in March 2019. He proudly serves as chief of program and pedagogy at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.


Nuestra Casa is an organization dedicated to increasing civic participation and promoting economic self-sustainability of the Latino immigrant population of East Palo Alto and the mid-Peninsula. Through community education, leadership development and advocacy, it develops local leadership to improve the community’s economic and social well-being. A cornerstone of its work is the recognition that the growth of families’ knowledge is intrinsically linked to developing community power. Nuestra Casa serves over 5,000 families annually and partners with the county of San Mateo, the Ravenswood City School District, the Redwood City School District and over 40 different service providers to collaborate on efforts such as community health education “promotora” training modules, community outreach and education, and immigrant integration advocacy. Nuestra Casa envisions a vibrant East Palo Alto united around shared values, a multicultural community working together to ensure that all of its residents are integrated and have access to the American Dream.


Family Independence Initiative (FII) trusts and invests directly in low-income families so they can work individually and collectively to achieve prosperity. FII does away with the traditional top-down approach to fighting poverty by letting families be the change agents, fueling solutions that families uncover and develop for themselves. FII provides an environment and a proprietary technology platform for families to move up together, helping them achieve their goals by strengthening existing and creating new social networks, accessing funding to support their efforts, and supporting one another. Their actions and activities to improve their lives teach FII and others how to design direct capital investments that match the families’ initiatives. This approach accelerates their social and economic mobility. They envision that one day all families across America will have access to the resources and opportunities needed to achieve their goals and dreams.


Del Seymour has been a community leader in the Tenderloin for 10 years and a resident of the San Francisco neighborhood for more than three decades. A veteran and former drug addict who has experienced homelessness himself, he’s been nicknamed the “Mayor of the Tenderloin” now spends seven days a week serving and advocating for impoverished neighborhood residents. He is the founder of Tenderloin Walking Tours and Code Tenderloin, a nonprofit that provides job readiness training and basic coding skills to the city’s homeless, formerly incarcerated and disenfranchised populations with the goal of putting them to work in the tech industry. Seymour is vice president of the board of directors of Swords to Plowshares, a nonprofit organization for veterans. He is also co-chair of the Local Homeless Coordinating Board, which oversees the allocation of Department of Homelessness and HUD funds, board member of the Department of Public Works’ Better Market Project and board member of the Tenderloin Health Improvement Partnership through Dignity Health/St Francis Foundation.

Prior Winners
  • 2017 – Dr. Ayodele Nzinga, Tamisha Torres-Walker, Pogo Park, Bayview Hunters Point Center for Arts and Technology (BAYCAT)
  • 2015 – Janice Mirikitani, Eveline Shen, East Bay Community Law Center
  • 2014 – Headlands Center for the Arts, Linda Tillery, Luis Granados, Mission Asset Fund
  • 2013 – Reverend Michael McBride, Educators for Fair Consideration, Nancy Hom, Greg Moore
  • 2012 – Aim High, Chinese for Affirmative Action, Brenda Way, Rita Semel
  • 2011 – Bishop Yvette A. Flunder, Gonzalo Rucobo, John Santos, Jordan Simmons, Ravenswood Family Health Center
  • 2010 – Dr. Washington Burns, Anna Halpri, Sylvia Rosales-Fike, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation
  • 2009 – Mary Lou Breslin, Michael Franti, Eugene Rodriguez, Children’s Book Press, National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • 2008 – Van Jones, Malcolm Margolin, Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez, Asian Women’s Shelter
  • 2007 – Jane Garcia, Alonzo King, Eva Paterson, Arnold Perkins, Swords to Plowshares
  • 2006 – Dr. Joseph Marshall, Jr., Michael Morgan, Bishop William Swing, Alice Waters
  • 2005 – Ronald V. Dellums, Zakarya Diouf, Arabella Martinez, Insight Prison Project
  • 2004 – Chris Bischof, Ester Hernández, Dr. Barbara Staggers, Puente de la Costa Sur
  • 2003 – Sister Trinitas Hernandez, Mimi Silbert, Helen Waukazoo, Mother Brown’s Dining Room
  • 2002 – David Lee, Martha Ryan, Carlos Santana, Bridge Housing Corporation
  • 2001 – Harrison Lim, Margaret Cruz, Kouichoy Saechao, San Francisco Performances
  • 2000 – Margarete Connolly, Martin Jacks, Cultural Odyssey’s Medea Project, Building Futures With Women and Children
  • 1999 – Boona Cheema, Dorothy Smith Patterson, Asian Perinatal Advocates, La Peña Cultural Center
  • 1998 – Ruth Beckford, Marya Grambs, A Home Away from Homelessness, Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation

Prior to 1998, the foundation honored extraordinary accomplishments in public service through the Special Awards Program. Four awards were given annually until 1996: the John R. May Award, the Robert C. Kirkwood Award, the San Francisco Foundation Award and the Helen Crocker Russell Award. The Awards Program was restructured so that the current Community Leadership Awards are given in the same spirit of leadership and recognition as the original leadership awards.

John R. May Awards: Made for organizational initiatives in response to a significant contemporary problem.

  • 1996 – The Garden Project
  • 1995 – Rafael House
  • 1994 – Black Adoption Placement & Research Center
  • 1993 – Rubicon Programs, Inc.
  • 1992 – Berkeley Oakland Support Services
  • 1991 – Larkin Street Youth Center
  • 1990 – Innovative Housing
  • 1989 – San Francisco Conservation Corps
  • 1988 – Battered Women’s Association
  • 1987 – Bay Area Crisis Nursery, Shanti Project
  • 1986 – Eden Express
  • 1985 – Jubilee West, Inc.
  • 1984 – Visiting Nurses & Hospice of San Francisco
  • 1983 – Coleman Children and Youth Services
  • 1982 – Family Violence Project
  • 1981 – Community Boards
  • 1980 – Environmental Traveling Companions
  • 1979 – Volunteer Centers of Alameda County
  • 1978 – On Lok Senior Health Services
  • 1977 – Center for Independent Living Inc.
  • 1976 – Banana’s Inc.
  • 1975 – Catholic Youth Organization

Robert C. Kirkwood Award: Made to an individual in recognition of outstanding community service, commitment and inspired leadership.

  • 1996 – Frances Green
  • 1995 – Gladys Thacher
  • 1994 – Dr. Edward A. Chow
  • 1993 – Marjorie G. Stern
  • 1992 – Rudolph Nothenberg
  • 1991 – Feliz Elizalde
  • 1990 – Adele Corvin
  • 1989 – Patricia Costello
  • 1988 – Lillian Rabinowitz
  • 1987 – Joseph W. Valentine
  • 1986 – Dr. Mary B. Olney
  • 1985 – Esther Gulick, Catherine Kerr, Sylvia McLaughlin
  • 1984 – Margaret Douglas and Percy Steele
  • 1983 – Henry Der
  • 1982 – Cornell Maier
  • 1980 – Eunice Dalton
  • 1979 – Samuel Stewart
  • 1978 – Sandi Piccine and Pat Coates
  • 1977 – Rev. Gene Dawson
  • 1976 – Dr. Frank Oppenheimer
  • 1975 – Milton Salkind
  • 1974 – Ruth Asawa
  • 1973 – Ruth Chance
  • 1972 – Dorothy Erskine
  • 1971 – Yori Wada
  • 1968 – Roger W. Heyns
  • 1967 – Rev. Jesse James
  • 1966 – James Day
  • 1965 – The Coro Foundation
  • 1964 – Adrien J. Falk

The San Francisco Foundation Award: Made to an individual demonstrating exemplary commitment to improving human relations in the Bay Area.

  • 1997 – Sherry Hirota
  • 1996 – Sandy Close
  • 1995 – Carl Anthony
  • 1994 – Jeffrey Mori
  • 1993 – Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.
  • 1992 – Angela Glover Blackwell
  • 1991 – Lewis H. Butler
  • 1990 – Dr. Edward Blakely
  • 1989 – Dr. Mervyn Silverman
  • 1988 – Rev. Frank Gilbert
  • 1987 – Eleanor Curry
  • 1986 – Dr. Francisco J. Curry
  • 1985 – David K. Yamakawa Jr.
  • 1984 – Carlota Texidor del Portillo
  • 1983 – Herman J. McKenzie
  • 1982 – Barbara Cross
  • 1981 – Eunice Jackson
  • 1980 – Belva Davis
  • 1979 – Father Donald Burr MacKinnon
  • 1978 – Dr. Moses Grossman
  • 1977 – Calvin Anderson
  • 1976 – Sam Yuen
  • 1975 – Florette W. Pomeroy
  • 1974 – Kenneth C.L. Cabb
  • 1973 – Lovie McIntosh
  • 1972 – William L. Becker
  • 1971 – Leandro P. Soto
  • 1970 – Beth Cobb
  • 1969 – Earl Raab
  • 1968 – Grandvel Jackson
  • 1967 – J.K. Choy
  • 1966 – Percy Pinkney
  • 1965 – Sister Rose Maureen Kelly
  • 1964 – Danta Andreotti
  • 1963 – Genevieve Jefferson

Helen Crocker Russell Award ($5,000): Made to nonprofit organizations that have improved the quality of life in the Bay Area through programs in the arts, humanities, recreation, environmental protection or enhancement.

  • 1996 – Museum of Children’s Art, National Institute of Art & Disabilities
  • 1995 – The Bay Institute of San Francisco, Golden Gate National Park Association, Peninsula Open Space Trust
  • 1994 – East Bay Center for Performing Arts, Oakland East Bay Symphony
  • 1993 – Bread and Roses, The Greenbelt Alliance
  • 1992 – Save Mount Diablo, The Oakland Museum